On the Road Review: Volkswagen Golf AllTrack



 

The Jeep dinner is prepping for the formal discussion about the all-new Compass, however, the 4.5-hour drive from Middleboro, Mass., to home is begging to get started. I am also anxious to pilot the new VW Golf AllTrack. Exit stage left.

If you are any kind of an automobile fan you have read enough news stories, almost all negative, about VW’s “diesel-gate” situation to be tired of the sordid saga. Time to turn the page — especially you VW fans — as the Golf AllTrack signals a fresh start for the brand.

Mixing it up with suburban Boston traffic is always a delight — especially the mass exodus north and south from the city around rush hour. Tonight is no exception as the rolling parking lot forces you to pay strict attention to every lane around you, lest you become embroiled in a fast-paced fender-bender. The Golf lurches into this free-for-all with aplomb, its 1.8-liter turbo-four producing ample energy for keeping up as well as surging into opening holes that help you leap around dunderheads blocking the passing lanes. Steering feel, chassis responses and overall agility are pure VW; a Golf with AWD and a wagon body that rides 1.5 inches higher than the previous Jetta wagon.

Essentially a five-passenger “sport-wagon” targeting the Subaru Outback, the AllTrack is for Jetta and Passat wagon owners who A) miss their diesel wagons, and B) really wanted a proper all-wheel-drive wagon instead of a crossover, and had to leave the VW brand to find one. No more; this Golf AllTrack is fun to drive, practical and, in true VW style, sensible.

Exiting the city, the Golf AllTrack comes into its own and follows the speedy pace heading north to Maine. The ride is quieter than most crossovers, while the relaxed torque of the turbo-motor provides more eager throttle responses than all but Ford’s also turbocharged Escapes. So while the Golf’s 170 hp is less than Subaru’s Outback, which has an engine 40 percent larger, the VW is definitely quicker and accelerates more easily with the dual-clutch automatic capably handling heavy-handed right foot operation.

Fuel mileage for this fast run comes in at 27.9 mpg — our low for the week together — while the peak mileage is best realized at the “sweet-spot” for many of today’s modern cars, between 55 and 65 mph. At that pace, the AllTrack provided 35.5 mpg — crushing any similarly sized crossover as well as the EPA estimates of 22/32/26 mpg.

Nimble off the super-slab, and with AWD stepping in only after the front wheels lose grip, the Golf’s peppy demeanor reminds you of the driving character that makes these cars so attractive in the first place. Engaged in the driving process, the AllTrack embraces all of the subtle hints that make a VW drive with the taut verve of a VW.

This is true inside as well as a familiar cabin layout greets owners. The manual/power driver’s seat settles in nicely behind the multi-function tilt/tele steering wheel, while the view to all corners is very good. In base ‘S’ trim, $25,850 with the AWD, you get conventional rotary climate controls, normal radio tuning knobs, heated seats, heated mirrors with turn signals, VW Car-Net apps with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a split folding rear seat as well as the VW-common hidden rear-view camera. SE trim adds $3,500 and more features, while SEL adds another $3,400 worth of safety and comfort features.

The cargo hold is nicely shaped, 30 cubic feet, yet the liftgate lacks any hand-hold pockets or straps for short-inseamed owners to pull the lid down. The console, at least on “S” trim, has hard surfaces that your leg rests against, and the ignition still requires a key(!). Yet, you get automatic turning lamps, one-touch power windows and a steering wheel stocked with buttons that while they make system interaction easier, could offer more tactile differentiation so that you don’t need to look at each button to engage.

And, like the Outback, the AllTrack has 4Motion AWD. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chevy and Ford don’t offer anything like this.

This Golf AllTrack is step one on VW’s path back to relevance in the U.S. market. While TDI vehicles now have their programming resolved and sales have resumed, VW probably won’t have any new diesel cars for sale here — at least not for a while. We do, however, get the all-new Atlas three-row, full-size crossover (built in Tennessee and now on sale) plus a redesigned Tiquan compact crossover arrives later this summer.

VW dealers are going to be very busy, again.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.